U preps for revenge against Purdue

Murali Balaji

It wasn’t too long ago that a gangly forward from Little Rock, Ark., would step onto the court at Williams Arena, score eight quick points, and then return to the Gophers’ bench.
Those were the days of “Instant Offense” Quincy Lewis. The Lewis who spoke to the media at Wednesday’s senior day press gathering is now a player with the capability of scoring at will against any opponent at any given time.
“Since I’ve been here, I’ve accomplished everything I could as a basketball player,” said Lewis, who will likely round out his stellar Gophers career as the Big Ten Player of the Year. “I’ve also grown as a person, and that’s real important to me.”
The contributions that Lewis, guard Kevin Clark and forwards Miles Tarver and Jason Stanford have made to the Minnesota basketball program, both on and off court, was a point that Gophers’ coach Clem Haskins sought to emphasize. In fact, Haskins scheduled the senior day gathering as a way of publicly expressing his gratitude to his seniors.
“I want to pay tribute to these men who’ve made outstanding contributions to Minnesota for the past two to five years,” Haskins said. “These young men have 96 wins, averaging 24 wins a season. That’s the best in school history.”
For Lewis, the chance to leave Minnesota with one of the most prolific careers in school history is an accomplishment he says he has yet to come to grips with. Lewis, who will likely play his last game in Williams Arena (unless the Gophers play in the NIT) tonight against Purdue, said the feeling of being on the last leg of his collegiate career dawned on him long before Wednesday.
“It hit me last year at the seniors banquet, watching how hard it was for the seniors to get up there and talk about their careers,” he said. “I can’t put this feeling in words. It’s going to be real emotional for me.”
Stanford and Tarver, who came to the Gophers as raw athletes without a clear-cut role, have become defensive mainstays on the team. Stanford, who walked on five years ago, reminisced about the history he will be leaving behind at Minnesota after tonight’s game.
“It’s been a never-ending story that’s coming to an end,” Stanford said. “I’ve played with guys like Voshon Lenard, Bobby Jackson, David Grimm, Sam Jacobson, John Thomas and Quincy Lewis. I’ve been blessed to be in this position today.”
Tarver, on the other hand, wasn’t waxing sentimental just yet on consummating his Gophers’ career.
“It’s something I’ve taken for granted the last four years,” Tarver said. “I haven’t thought about it too much this year — (tonight’s game) is just another game. I look forward to playing in the postseason.”
While Tarver will likely be remembered for his off-color commentary and urbane wit and humor, he ensconced himself as the emotional glue of the team this year, accepting the role of being a vocal on-court leader.
“I’m focused on making us ready to play in the postseason,” he said. “We still have two games left, and we look at the (Big Ten) tournament as a forum to show our skills to the selection committee.”
But while the Gophers remain focused on reaching NCAA tournament, the seniors asserted their gratitude to the fans and the coaches for supporting their careers.
“I just want to thank everyone for staying with me these four years,” Lewis said. “It’s been a great ride.”